Maker’s Mark Private Select
Similar to last year, we’ve decided to focus our July reviews on American whiskey. We tend to favor single malt Scotch, so concentrating on American whiskey is a good way for us to mix things up. Following a Bourbon-centric trip, two close friends of ours were very generous to bring us back a few souvenirs—a bottle of Maker’s Mark and the book Whiskey Women. For those that haven’t read it, the book is a fascinating chronicle of the various women that have had significant influence over whiskey in general as well as individual distilleries. From the women centuries ago who are credited as the first beer brewers and distillers to the women that defied prohibition, Whiskey Women proves that whiskey isn’t a “man’s drink” as more modern sentiments may imply.
With its red waxed top, Maker’s Mark may be one of the most recognizable American spirits brands (in addition to Jack Daniel's and Jim Beam). Since 1953 the company has been producing bourbon in Loretto Kentucky, and after being acquired a few times, the brand is now a part of the Beam-Suntory conglomerate. Along with hand dipped wax coated bottles, Marker’s Mark utilizes a high corn mash bill that is less common in the industry. The brand is available in two core bottlings, original and Marker’s Mark 46.
Maker’s Mark 46 follows an interesting production process. The company takes the traditional charred white oak barrels used for aging bourbon and adds several staves of charred French oak to the mix. The result is effectively an example of wood finishing.
Maker’s Mark expanded the 46 concept with the Private Select offering. Like 46, this program adds 10 staves to the standard American oak barrel, however the 10 staves are chosen from a selection of 5 different types of French and American oak at varying levels of toast or char. The result is a massive number of combinations of staves available for the finishing barrel.
Maker’s Mark Private Select
Our friends chose for us a Private Select bottle with the stave configuration of 10 Maker’s 46 Staves.
Eyes: The whiskey is a copper color of a brand new shiny penny. The texture is oily and viscous, leaving long legs in the glass.
Nose: At first, we detected aromas of dry oak and lots of brown sugar. The initial nose was very very sweet with a hint of cinnamon and ripe bananas. Regardless, at 55% this was surprisingly approachable first encounter. As the whiskey opened, we detected a hefty portion of campfire smoke.
Taste: The initial taste brought the heat we’d expect at barrel proof, but the effect was more warming than a straight burn. Flavors of dried cherries, chestnuts, and toasted almonds. Not too much oak tannin to the taste. The flavor was sweet but not overpowering.
Finish: The sweetness of the whiskey faded and was replaced by a gentle smokiness.
This bottle of Private Select tasted quite different than regular Marker’s Mark 46, with the presence of the barbecue smoke representing the biggest surprise. Some of the classic bourbon flavors (vanilla & brown sugar) mixed with ones that we would more readily associate with single malt Scotch (sea salt, barbecue smoke, and stone fruit) . The Private Select almost resembled a sweeter and less salty version of a Talisker. We’re very grateful that our friends were able to secure this bottle for us, as it quickly became one of our favorite American whiskeys.